Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003

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Parliamentary Record 13


Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 19 June 2003 Mr STIRLING (Employment, Education and Training): Madam Speaker, it is important at the outset to get the key message behind this issue, including the report and, indeed, the censure motion from the member for Drysdale. If we go to the report, which is what he has based his censure motion on, the key message is contained in the heading: Effects o f Substance Abuse Aggression on Health Service Provision. An East Amhem Perspective. I quote from the report: The primary effect o f substance abuse on service provision is an aggression expressed towards health service staff and property causing injury to staff, increased staff turnover, property damage, adverse public image, related care and opportunity costs. A further heading on page 3 is: The Case for Linking Aggression and Substance Abuse: Gove District Hospital has had a recent blitz on security for staff and patients. As part o f this effort, the hospital has attempted to record every incident of concern since late February 2003. Alcohol abuse was an obvious but unquantified part o f the problem, so belief o f its influence was recorded for each incident. Of 44 cases recorded to 2 April 2003, 42 cases, or a staggering 95%, were believed to have some alcohol involvement. The next heading is: The Link between Aggression and Substance Abuse in East Amhem Communities: Unfortunately, there is no equivalent study for the communities. From examination o f existing records, primarily incident reports, the substance abuse status cannot be determined in 84% o f the reports. O f the remaining reports, those mentioning substance abuse are six times more frequent than reports where substance abuse can be excluded... A comparison check o f hospital only incident reports shows much the same 6:1 ratio with alcohol involvement in 34% o f reports, and exclusion o f alcohol in just 5% o f the reports. There was a lesser incidence o f unknown cases at 61%. Reports from communities also include references to substances other than alcohol with ganja being predominant. There are also mentions o f speed, petrol, kava and pharmaceutical abuse as well as some indications o f poly-substance abuse. Of interest is the total absence o f an opiate problem from this source. God be blessed for small mercies! As if there is not enough without suggesting opiates are in there as well, because we might expect that could be the next thing to occur if we do not get on top of speed and pharmaceutical abuse, apparently to the extent that it is occurring as per this report. I go back to page 2, where the message here to me is: ... of 44 cases recorded to 2 April 2003, 42 cases were believed to have alcohol involvement. That is the key message. That is where this violence is coming from. It is alcohol abuse by a relatively small number of itinerants, or long grassers as they are more commonly known. The issues of alcohol abuse are not new to the Northern Territory. They are not new to north-east Amhem Land. It was recognised as far back as 1993-94 by the then Chief Minister Marshall Perron, who was quite innovative in his day and led the way with the Living with Alcohol program throughout the Territory. There was a very large push behind that program to market the benefits of lighter alcohol strength beers. For quite some years here, when we had functions out the back, you could only get light beer. They simply did not serve heavy beer at any government function, such was the message that Marshall Perron and the government of the day was pushing through. He stood in this House and said: Look, I do not know if we will get it right, but we are going to have a red hot go at this, and if we see it failing over time and there is a need for change, we will bring it back. We will twist it, we will change it, and we will move with changing circumstances. There is no doubt, and the records would speak for themselves, that there were very positive effects across the Territory on the back of that program. 4398

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